Veterans day is here again. It means something different now that my son is a Marine. It was always a solemn and somber occasion in the past. My great uncle on my father’s side died in World War II, a training accident inside a Navy gun turret. My great uncle on my mother’s side was part of the second wave on the beach in Normandy. He was injured by a German grenade and moderately disabled for the rest of his life. I never got to hear war stories. He was too damaged to ever talk about anything that happened in the war. My mother’s cousin was flying a plane in the Viet Nam Conflict. It went up, and didn’t come down again. You think of those things, and wish it could be different. You pray that it will be different for your son who is a soldier.
But when the worst that can happen comes to pass… there are no regrets. Whatever future we have is rooted in the past. Pain and suffering are difficult to manage, but when you manage them, it leaves you stronger… better as a person than you were before. So I don’t take anything for granted. I was not a warrior in this life. I was a teacher, a story-teller. And I made some mistakes along the way. I have lost some whom I cared about very deeply. Ruben, Fernando, and J.J. are all gone tragically. I will always feel I should have done more to help them when they were boys and needed help. Miraculously with the Gulf War, Afghanistan, and Iraq I have lost no former students to war, though many of mine have fought. I pray that my luck continues to hold.
But there are no regrets. And “you can listen as well as you hear”, so listen to this. I love you.
Yes, I am talking to sons and daughters, to former students, to former colleagues, to everyone I have ever known. And even if I don’t know you, never met you, even if you never get a chance to hear this message… I am talking to you also. We are all one. We all live and love and strive together, and even if we disagree to the point of war… we still belong to each other. Thank you for being you. You needed to hear that at least as much as I needed to say it.
My son is coming home on leave for Thanksgiving. I will be giving thanks.